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Miles and Points, Planning, Posted by Amy
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A Step-by-Step Guide to Booking Free Business Class Flights with Credit Card Points

The miles and points world can be a confusing one – I spent months researching how and when I could get my family to Europe an Africa on business class award flights. However, there are actually some very simple ways to go from using your credit card to booking an amazing free flight. In this post, I go step-by-step and show you exactly what I did to book a free business class flight within Europe.

There are many different points programs and airlines, and the process for redeeming points and miles is highly dependent on the rules of each program. Sometimes it’s very complicated, but it can also be very quick and easy. In this example, I use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a Business class flight on United, and it took less than 10 minutes.

This is what I did:

  1. Applied for a Credit Card and then used that credit card for every day expenses, earning points
  2. Searched for a flight I wanted to take and determined the cost in miles
  3. Transferred points from the credit card to miles in an airline account
  4. Booked the flight with miles.

That’s it! Read on for the details.

Flight Requirements

I have to go be in Barcelona for 10 days in October for a work conference (life sucks, right?), and after the conference ends, I have 3 glorious, free days until I have to fly to San Francisco for another work meeting. One of the best ways to travel more is to add a side trip onto a place you’re already going, which is why I always stop somewhere on my way home from the company conference. After a consultation with my closest friends (aka posting about it on Facebook) Prague seemed like the perfect choice.

My company-booked flights are Detroit -> Barcelona, and Prague -> San Francsico. And yes, I have a valid business reason for needing to depart from Prague. A sane worker is a better worker, right?

Anyway, I was on my own for getting from Barcelona to Prague. No problem. Short hops within Europe are cheap right? Maybe $150? No, apparently they aren’t. Flights from Barcelona to Prague were $627 in coach and $886 in business! That’s just criminal. Fortunately, I have a diversified points portfolio and know that I can use those points to get to my destination for free. (Almost free.)

Finding the Flight

An award search from Barcelona to Prague on United
I found the flight I wanted on United, by doing a simple search on the United website and selecting the “Award Travel” box. United shows a list of all the flights that are available, and I found the one I want.

Since I only have 3 days, I want to get in early, and this flight gets me in at 12:40pm, leaving me half of the day on Friday to explore. Perfect.

The two award options are 15,000 points for an economy flight or 30,000 points for a business class flight.

Flight for 15,000 points in economy or 30,000 points in business class

Two tiers of award flights, saver and standard
The United site shows two tiers of awards in both economy and business: the saver level and standard awards. I am looking only for saver-level awards since they are the best use of points. Standard awards are much higher.

If you want to research possible trips via United, this is an easy way to search for availability and see how many points you might need. Saver level is always the best value.

Transferring Points

With Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can transfer your points to many different airline and hotel programs.
Since my United account had almost no points in it, I decided to use my Chase Ultimate Rewards points for this flight. Ultimate Rewards is a program that accrues points using various Chase credit cards, including the Sapphire Preferred, the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, and the Chase Freedom. (The Chase Freedom is a cash-back only card, unless you have one of the other cards.)

The great thing about Ultimate Rewards is that they are transferrable to many different airlines and hotel programs.

I start by logging into my Chase checking account, just like normal. All of my Chase credit cards are linked here on my account page. I choose my Sapphire Preferred card, and click through to the Ultimate Rewards Portal, which is right there on the screen.

The Chase Accounts has a link to the Ultimate Rewards site where you can transfer your points.

I’ve had this Chase card for about 2 years, and I don’t do anything special with it, but I’ve managed to accumulate 149,000 points. This card gets 2x points on travel (hotels, flights, rental cars, parking) and at restaurants, so I make sure to always use it for those things so I maximize the points I earn.

Next, I click “Transfer Points” and select “United” from the list of transfer partners. I fill out the form with my United account details and the amount of points I want to transfer. (In this case, 30,000 points)

Points transfer instantly from Chase Ultimate Rewards to United

Easy.

Booking the Flight

I had already found the flight I wanted by doing a search, so now I just need to book it.

The points I moved from Ultimate Rewards transferred instantly. These screenshots were taken just seconds apart when I reloaded the page.

United account before points transfer
United account after points transfer

I could spend 15,000 points on an economy class flight, but decided to spend 30,000 on business. Intra-European business class is only marginally better than economy, but I have no status with United and this business class ticket will get me into the priority baggage and security lanes at the airport as well as better customer service in the event that something goes wrong.

Now that I have enough points, I select the flight and book it! I paid $47.60 in taxes, which are unfortunately part of the deal.

Confirmation of flight booking and payment of 30,000 points.

The Value of Points

Just by having a credit card and incorporating my every day spending on it in a logical way, I was able to book a flight with points that would have cost me $886, or $627 in economy.

Having points available opens up the possibilities you have with travel and allows you to do things you wouldn’t normally be able to afford.

In the miles and points world, there is a lot of discussion about the value of a point. In fact, The Points Guy does a monthly column on the subject. The value of my trip is 3¢ per point, which I calculate by taking the number of cents the ticket would have cost and dividing it by the number of points used.

Anyone who is just using their cards for cash back is getting only 1¢ per point.

This trip was also a terrible value – usually I get much more than 3¢ per point when I book a flight. (Our flights to Mauritius were valued at 8.3¢ per point.) I did decide to book it anyway because I have a lot of Ultimate Rewards points right now, but you can see how the value of points increases significantly when you use them for flights instead of cash back.

If you are just looking to get started and take the first step in upping your travel game, check out my post on free travel with miles and points!

Note: This is only something you should do if you have good credit and the ability to pay off your credit cards every month!

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